Probes to Other Planets
BOTH the United States and the Soviet Union have sent spacecraft to the vicinity of other planets. Is there any indication of evolved life on them? What has been learned about these planets?
As to the United States space probes to Mars, a scientist in the Mariner 9 space project said: “Mars has a character all its own. It is not earth-like or moon-like, it is Mars-like.”
What, then, is Mars like? Mariner photographs through color filters show that the soil of Mars is reddish in color. This confirms observations through telescopes on earth that Mars is a “red planet.”
Four major “geological provinces” have been discovered on Mars, with the aid of thousands of pictures beamed back by spacecraft. The first of these regions is a volcanic province in the planet’s western hemisphere. This is an area of at least nine giant volcanoes. These are dominated by gigantic Nix Olympica, 310 miles across at its base; its upper rim is estimated to be more than three times as high as the over-29,000-foot-high Mt. Everest.
Another of these provinces has a very rugged terrain, which includes many canyons. The greatest of these canyons in this region is reported to be ten times the length of the Grand Canyon and about four times as deep. In other words, the gorge is estimated to be 2,500 miles long, and 75 miles wide and nearly four miles deep.
A third region is one that is heavily cratered. This pockmarked area resembles the moon.
The fourth region is a spectacular expanse of stair-step terraces and deep grooves radiating from the south polar region.
It was also found that near the south pole is a small “ice cap” about 200 miles in diameter, even in the height of summer. Some scientists believe that this “ice cap” is not all frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice) but that, in part, it may be frozen water.
What about Mars’ atmosphere? The Soviet Union’s Mars 2 and Mars 3 probes revealed that the planet’s atmosphere is found to be 2,000 times as dry as the earth’s atmosphere, making Mars “a drier planet than observers on earth had expected,” Tass, the Soviet press agency, reported. The atmosphere next to the planet’s surface was found to be mainly carbon dioxide and so thin that it is one hundredth that of the earth’s.
Is there any possibility of liquid water on Mars? Scientists think that there may have been water at one time, since water is viewed as the likely force to carve out canyons and ridges. But man’s knowledge is limited, and other forces might be capable of causing such canyons. In any event, scientists regard it as physically impossible for liquid water to exist on the surface of Mars now. Why? Because the carbon-dioxide atmosphere of Mars is so thin that there is not enough atmospheric pressure to hold water in a liquid state. Thus a drop of water would evaporate instantly.
As for the temperature on Mars, Soviet probes found the planet to have temperatures ranging from 148 degrees F. below zero to 55 degrees F. above zero. The American Mariner 9 probe indicated that temperatures reach 80 degrees F. above zero in early afternoon.
Atmospheric winds on Mars reach speeds of up to 115 miles an hour. During global dust storms, winds are thought to reach a velocity of 300 miles an hour.
As for the controversial “canals” on Mars, in 1895 one astronomer suggested that they were constructed by intelligent beings to carry water from Mars’ polar ice caps to its equatorial deserts. The canals have long remained a riddle. What, then, did Mariner 9 discover? After more than 7,000 television pictures, analyses showed no canals. The mysterious “canals” were an optical illusion. Explained The National Observer of November 25, 1972: “The fierce Martian winds blow light sand and dust over the planet, and, in so doing, uncover and re-cover patches of darker material. That’s enough for someone wanting to find canals to see them.” The canyons on Mars also appear to have contributed to the idea that there were canals on the “red planet.”
But now, what about the prospect of evolved life on Mars? Dr. Rudolph A. Hanel of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, one of the Mariner 9 project scientists, said: “We have not seen any sign of life on Mars.”
What About Other Planets?
The Soviet Union has sent at least ten missions to that cloud-enshrouded planet called Venus. Their Venera 8 mission enabled them to land an instrumented package on the surface of the planet, which transmitted signals for fifty minutes in July 1972. What was discovered?
“The most significant of Venera’s revelations,” reported Time magazine of September 25, 1972, “is that the chemical composition of at least part of the surface is similar to the earth’s. Venera’s gamma-ray spectrometer determined that the landing area contained radioactive potassium, uranium and thorium in approximately the same ratio in which they appear in many volcanic rocks on earth. This, in turn, indicates that Venus, like the earth, Mars and the moon, is ‘differentiated’; that is, the planet was once hot enough for its material to soften and flow. During this period, the heavier elements settled toward the core while the lighter ones, taking radioactive elements with them, rose to the surface to form a crust.”
The planet’s atmosphere was found to consist largely of carbon dioxide. Its atmospheric pressure is ninety times or more that of the earth’s.
Another of the discoveries regarding Venus has to do with the cloud layers surrounding the planet, clouds so dense that astronomers have never seen its surface even with their powerful telescopes. Could some sunlight penetrate the planet’s cloud cover? This has long been debated. The Soviet Venera 8 mission carried a photometer that was sensitive to wide variations in luminosity. Said Scientific American of November 1972: “The photometer showed that sunlight is greatly attenuated by the atmosphere, . . . and that some sunlight does manage to penetrate to the surface on the daytime side.” Time magazine said: “Soviet scientists could determine that about two-thirds of the solar radiation striking Venus penetrates the thick cloud cover and reaches the surface.”
Winds on Venus were found to be 110 miles per hour at an altitude of thirty miles. This is about the same speed as earth’s jet streams. Near the surface, winds were only about four miles per hour.
Another discovery was that the planet does not cool off during its nighttime periods. The planet’s atmosphere creates what is called a “greenhouse effect” that keeps the heat from escaping at night. What is the temperature of this heat, and, in view of it, could life exist on Venus?
The signals from the Venera 8 spacecraft transmitted signals that indicated a temperature on the surface of Venus of about 880 degrees F. —more than 250 degrees above the melting point of lead! Little wonder that the volume Science Year for 1972 reported: “The signals confirmed previous indications that no human being could survive on Venus because of the high temperatures and crushing atmospheric pressures.”
Jupiter, the largest of the nine planets in our solar system, now has a spacecraft bound for it. This is the Pioneer 10 spacecraft, launched from Cape Kennedy March 2, 1972. Pioneer 10 is not scheduled to reach the vicinity of Jupiter until December 1973, since the journey is 620 million miles. More probes to Jupiter are planned. Says a news report: “The National Aeronautics and Space Administration plans to look for life on the planet with a space craft scheduled to fly past it in 1979.”
What has been learned about planets thus far from space ventures is, mainly, that they are not suitable for human habitation, nor has any life been found. But the evolutionists’ search for life in outer space goes on.
Is there authoritative information about life in outer space? Can we know for certain if there is life beyond the earth?
[Picture on page 10]
RIGHT: A vast chasm about 75 miles wide and 300 miles long, and branching canyons on Mars, based on photo taken by Mariner 9. ABOVE: An artist’s rendering of a narrow section of one of these canyons on Mars, two miles deep. A report said: “Mars is a far more complicated body than we had thought.”
[Picture on page 11]
Men have long wondered whether some sunlight could penetrate the dense clouds of Venus. The Soviet Venera 8 probe landed on Venus and disclosed the secret